RAF and Navy rugby league players enter the field of play for an Inter Services match in 2019
RAF and Navy rugby league players enter the field of play for an Inter Services match in 2019. (Picture: Royal Navy Rugby League)
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RAF or Royal Navy: Who will return to Inter Services rugby league with success?

The Royal Navy and the RAF meet for the first time at Inter Services level since 2019.

RAF and Navy rugby league players enter the field of play for an Inter Services match in 2019
RAF and Navy rugby league players enter the field of play for an Inter Services match in 2019. (Picture: Royal Navy Rugby League)

Inter Services rugby league is set to return as the Royal Navy hosts fixtures against the Royal Air Force.

The championships are back following a two-year absence due to the pandemic.

The Navy men's team comes into this match riding high after their historic run in the Challenge Cup earlier this year, reaching the fourth round for the first time in their history.

As the hosts of this latest fixture, the Navy will be aiming for a win to outline their title intentions against a strong RAF team.

The Air Force beat the Navy 22-4 in their last Inter Services clash three years ago and a similar result will put them in pole position for the trophy.

The women's fixture is also taking place on the same day at the same stadium.

A 10-10 draw in 2019 provided exciting action and both teams come into this match on even footing again.

The action will take place on 23 September at United Services Rugby Ground in Portsmouth and both matches will be shown LIVE on the Forces News YouTube channel.

Key players

Alex Barnes - RAF

The Air Force's women's team includes a Leeds Rhinos star, Alex Barnes, who regularly plays in the Betfred Super League. They will expect her to take control of the Navy clash.

Olivia Critchley-Peddle - Royal Navy

The winger is a star for the Navy in both rugby codes and played for the rugby union side at Twickenham earlier this year. 

Ben Taylor - Royal Navy

The Royal Navy will be led by skipper Ben Taylor. He brings a wealth of match experience to the table and is a UK Armed Forces regular.

Adam Middleton - RAF

In a fixture against the Army last year, Adam Middleton was a scorer as the RAF fell to defeat after a mass brawl resulted in two red cards. The fixture was not acknowledged as an official Inter Services match.

Did you know?

  • The RAF men's team haven't won the Inter Services since 2016 while the Navy's wait stretches to 2017.
  • The past four meetings between the men's teams has seen them split evenly with two wins each.
  • In 2021, the Navy and RAF women's teams joined forces for a match against the Army due to a lack of players available. The fixture was not acknowledged as an official Inter Services match.

'Never count the Navy out!'

Inter Services rugby league is finally back and we are expecting fireworks in our live coverage on Friday night.

The women's match will be very interesting and may be too close to call. The Air Force may just have the advantage on the day but we've learned never to count the Navy out.

The men's match is a similar story and could go either way on the day. The result of this one will be key as both teams look to end the British Army's recent dominance of the tournament. 

The Air Force come into the match with confidence after an impressive win over Bentley in the summer but the Navy have watched both of their service rivals lift the trophy since they have last triumphed.

They will want to put that right in 2022.

Kyle Dixon, BFBS Sport